Six D.C. Council members have expressed disapproval regarding a request from a consulting firm to renew its contract at cost of $4.2 million to continue managing the troubled United Medical Center, the city’s only public hospital.
City officials hired Veritas of Washington LLC last year in an attempt to stabilize the only full-service hospital east of the Anacostia River. But there has been little progress in improving the hospital’s finances or quality of care, despite the city already paying the consultants about $5 million.
Council member Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7), who chairs the committee on health, said Tuesday he had “very serious concerns” about the way the troubled hospital in Southeast is being managed by Veritas, a company led by campaign donors to D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D).
In August, District regulators closed the hospital’s obstetrics wing, citing dangerous medical errors that included failures to properly treat a woman with potentially fatal blood-pressure problems and to take basic steps to prevent a newborn from contracting HIV.
In July, a 70-year-old patient died but his family wasn’t notified for a week, and his family said hospital officials lost track of the body for several days.
Gray, along with Council members Mary M. Cheh, David Grosso, Elissa Silverman and Robert C. White Jr. and Chairman Phil Mendelson, filed a “disapproval resolution” on Tuesday in response to Veritas’ proposal to manage and run the hospital for another year at a cost to taxpayers of $4.2 million.
The disapproval resolution extends the time period for the council to review the proposed contract, from 10 days to 45 days.
Last month, Gray led a public hearing on UMC before the committee on health to find out what Veritas was doing to improve patient safety and hospital quality, particularly any improvements needed to reopen the obstetrics unit.
“It appeared that very little discernable progress had been made . . . ” Gray said in a statement. “I expected to see a sense of urgency, and instead, I saw nothing that made me feel like things were moving in the right direction. Even more concerning, it was suggested that OB services may never return to UMC.”
Gray plans another meeting on Oct. 30 to review Veritas’ performance.
“There needs to be significant additional progress demonstrated at the roundtable to make me believe an extension is warranted,” Gray said in the statement. “Absent that, I will move to disapprove this contract on November 7, 2017, and I will encourage my council colleagues to support the disapproval.”
Widespread skepticism about Veritas’ ability to turn UMC around was magnified in early September after a Washington Post review of public records showed the company had failed to meet several city standards for managing the hospital at the same time it realized just $1.07 million of the $9 million in revenue its executives had promised they could generate through various reforms.